RISKS, CONCERNS, AND CONFLICTS

Increasing academic-industry relationships also raise the specter of the inherent risks involved in these collaborations. Low (1983) has summarized the principal concerns as the following:

  • The possible erosion of basic academic values of the educational goals of teaching and research, of giving faculty members their choice of questions to pursue, and of maintaining the academic institution as a credible and impartial resource.

  • The conflicts of interest that may arise when trade secrets interfere with the freedom to publish, or when managing one's investments interferes with one's commitment to teaching and scholarly work.

  • The possible leakage of information from company to domestic or foreign competitors when research results are communicated openly in traditional academic fashion.

Concerns about the commercialization of academic biomedical research and linkages with industry have been scrutinized throughout the past decade. This was reflected by hearings convened by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology in 1981 that focused on two primary issues: whether academic-industry research relationships violated scientific and academic freedom and responsibilities, and whether these relationships best served the interests of the American public. A year later, then Congressman Albert Gore, Jr., stated, "We do not view such agreements as bad per se, but rather as a development that needs to be examined in detail" (U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 1988). To date, few empirical data from few isolated studies have been generated and little evidence exists to confirm or refute the risks to academia as a result of academic-industry relationships (Blumenthal, 1992). Nonetheless, a slate of issues has emerged, and these issues need to be considered in developing positive interrelationships between academic institutions and industry (National Academy of Sciences, 1991).

Scientific Communication and Proprietary Rights

The apparent conundrum is one of preserving basic academic values while protecting the rights of ownership of commercially valuable products or processes (Low, 1983). As mentioned above, academic principles are generally understood to be the educational goals of teaching and research, in which the faculty have the uninhibited choice to pursue questions of their own choosing, while maintaining the academic institution as a credible and impartial resource. By contrast, commercial value is inherent in the competitive advantage gained



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